The Health Secretary made the plea as he outlined how it will diagnose Covid-19 in just 90 minutes. Updating MPs as they returned to the House of Commons yesterday, Mr Hancock said huge progress has been made in fighting the virus over the past six months. The number of hospital patients in ventilator beds has fallen from 3,300 at the peak of the epidemic to 60, he said.
And testing capacity has rocketed with more than 16 million tests processed since the outbreak began. Mr Hancock said: “We must remain vigilant. I said in July that a second wave was rolling across Europe and sadly we’re now seeing an exponential rise in the number of cases in France and Spain. And the number of hospitalisations is sadly rising there too.
“We must do everything in our power to protect against a second wave here in the UK.”
The Health Secretary said a new advertising campaign would be launched to remind people how they can limit the spread of Covid-19.
He told MPs: “The first line of defence is and always has been social distancing and personal hygiene. Everyone has a part to play in following the social distancing rules and doing the basics. I’d like to thank the British public for everything they’ve done so far, but we must continue.”
Mr Hancock said rapid new Covid-19 tests would “provide on the spot results in under 90 minutes, helping us to break chains of transmission quickly”.
He added: “We now have one of the most comprehensive systems of testing in the world and we want to go much further.”
Millions of the ground-breaking swab tests, supplied by health firms DnaNudge and LamPORE, will be rolled out to hospitals, care homes and labs ahead of winter.
Mr Hancock said work on a vaccine is also progressing and that a jab may be available this side of Christmas.
He added: “The best case scenario remains a vaccine this year. Since the House last met trials have gone well.
“The Oxford vaccine continues to be the world leader and we’ve now contracted with six different vaccine providers, so that whichever comes off we can get access in this country.”
Some 1,295 new cases were confirmed in the UK yesterday, taking the total to 337,168. A further three coronavirus deaths were announced.